Sunday, August 15, 2004

U.S. Rep: U.S Responsible For Nick Berg's Detention

In a story that our SCLM has forgotten about:

Responsibility for the 13-day detention of Chester County businessman Nick Berg prior to his kidnapping and murder in Iraq rests largely with U.S. authorities, U.S. Rep. Jim Gerlach (R., Pa.) said yesterday.

Gerlach, whose Sixth Congressional District includes the West Chester suburb where Berg lived, said it was "clear the Iraqi police were only going to hold Nick until such time as they were told by U.S. authorities that it was OK to release him."

"As to why there was that length of detention, and what could have been done to shorten it, that's a question that is still outstanding," he said.

Gerlach made his comments yesterday afternoon after a meeting with Defense Department officials that he had arranged for Berg's father, Michael.

The retired West Chester teacher had been pushing for a face-to-face accounting from Defense and other government officials since his son's detention in Iraq in the spring.

U.S. officials have repeatedly asserted that Iraqi police - not U.S. authorities - arrested and detained Nick Berg.

Michael Berg, in a telephone interview shortly after the hour-long meeting in Gerlach's office, termed the meeting largely unsatisfactory, because he felt that officials were playing "word games" over who had custody of his son - they continued to maintain Iraqi police were in charge, he said - and were unable to answer some of his questions.

But for one brief moment, Berg said, he felt something close to relief.

Across from Berg sat Lt. Col. Bill Kern, whom Gerlach's office had listed as head of the department's Criminal Investigation Command in Mosul, Iraq, while Nick Berg was detained.

During that time, Nick Berg missed his plane flight home, and violence in the country escalated. He was later kidnapped and beheaded by insurgents who posted a video of the slaying on a Web site.

Yesterday, Michael Berg looked Kern in the eye, he related later, and "I said: 'This illegal detention is what cost my son his life...' "

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